Dozens of people gathered inside the Bill Cosford Cinema last Sunday to watch Some Like It Hot, the 1959 Marilyn Monroe film that helped bring the idea of fun-in-the-sun Miami Beach getaways to the big screen. The showing was part of Flaming Classics' new film series, Florida Focus, that screens films with a certain LGBT sensibility that are set in the Sunshine State.
Just as Tony Curtis' and Jack Lemmon's characters dressed as women in Some Like It Hot, drag queens at Sunday’s showing donned puffy blonde wigs and entertained attendees with laugh-inducing improv sketches. “It’s about knowing the importance of seeing yourself on screen and seeing different people on screen, and seeing history, and seeing local history, and bringing a communal space to laugh together,” says Trae DeLellis, 32, who cofounded the film series with New Times contributor Juan Barquin.
One of the goals of the series, DeLellis says, is to use film to offer historical context for the queer experience in Miami today. At a time when many young gay and trans individuals risk being detached from their forerunners, Flaming Classics shines a light on the on-screen characters who helped change culture.
And it's only getting bigger. "Yeah, it’s grown a lot,” says DeLellis, about the series’ success since its debut last year. “The crowd size largely depends on what film we’re showing.”
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On top of providing a sense of shared sense identity and visibility for LGBT locals, curating the films has also illuminated many aspects of South Florida’s gay backstory. "Every time we do something new, we learn something new about Miami’s queer history,” says DeLellis, describing how the Magic City’s longstanding cultural fabric has been a fertile ground for many different kinds of gay stories to blossom.
Apart from having a consistent Florida focus, the films in the current series are quite varied, showing an array of queer experiences set locally. "We're wonderfully all over the place," says DeLellis, pointing to this Sunday's screening of Academy Award-winning film Moonlight, which explores the intersection of being both black and queer in the Magic City. Just before the screening, there will be interview with film's screenwriter, Tarell Alvin McCraney.
For local fans of the film series, Flaming Classics isn't just entertaining — it's necessary. "One of our attendees told me it was one of the first times they felt the experience of watching a movie with their full community," says Barquin. "It’s so refreshing to hear that because all we want is to make the community stronger."
Flaming Classics presents Moonlight. 7:30 p.m. Sunday, June 24 at Bill Cosford Cinema, 5030 Brunson Dr., Coral Gables; flamingclassics.com. Free admission.